by Allan Cooper

On Tuesday, July 5, 2016 @ 5:00 P.M. a group of 30 residents stood on the steps of City Hall with signs reading “Resident Voices Matter”. Why? Because over the past two years our collective voices, particularly within the context of City Council appeals, were not being heard.
What is an appeal? San Luis Obispo residents can pay the City up to $273 to appeal any decision made by an advisory body providing it’s done within 10 days of that decision. The appeal is a reconsideration of the specific facts and circumstances of any final decision made by that advisory body. If the appellants make a convincing argument, the City Council may over- rule these final decisions. However, the appeal process should be a last resort. Yet it’s being used more and more by residents because of systemic problems which remain unaddressed within our City government.

Six times over the past two years the Council has been presented with neighborhood-backed appeals. Five times the Council failed to be swayed by the overwhelming public testimony presented to them. This pattern is giving the residents of SLO the impression that these Council Members have had their minds made up long before hearing from the public.

Our Council Members appear to be in denial with regards to the serious problems plaguing our community. What are these problems?

    .    1)  The City contributes to the deterioration of single-family neighborhoods by repeatedly approving incompatible, high-density infill projects, particularly high-density de facto student housing projects. The City’s State and regional (RHNA) mandated affordable housing quotas keep increasing because the City refuses to rein in rampant commercial growth, growth that all too frequently involves low-wage jobs. Density bonuses as high as 48% and reduced property development standards are too willingly granted developers who provide our community with a minimal amount of affordable housing. This leads to a corresponding decline in our quality of life and to owner-occupant flight. Residents are literally fleeing SLO because of this. 

    .    2)  The City refuses to stand up to Cal Poly and protest its rapidly expanding student enrollments. Increasing student enrollments result in the deterioration of our neighborhoods and escalation in rents that are forcing young working professionals to move out of SLO. Increasing enrollments increase crime, particularly alcohol-related crime, both Downtown and in the areas surrounding campus and we, the residents – not Cal Poly, end up shouldering the increasing costs of law enforcement.
    .    3)  The City is promoting growth that outstrips our infrastructure: our sewer, our water and particularly our roads. Moreover, population growth should be curbed, not encouraged, in light of severe changes in weather patterns and water shortages. 

    .    4)  The City is outstripping its financial resources by growing its staff and increasing its debt burden due to unfunded pension liabilities and additional long term debt and bond obligations. All of this has cumulatively led to the City’s current state of “technical insolvency” where the city’s long term municipal liabilities far exceed the City’s municipal assets. 

In the rush to grow our population and housing stock, City staff appear unconstrained by existing restrictions that are in place to insure quality development. They routinely ignore restrictions that are memorialized in our General Plan, our Zoning Regulations, our Historic Ordinance, our Hillside Ordinance and our Community Design Guidelines. City planning staff are now falling into the role of the developer’s representative. To illustrate this point, when was the last time staff recommended that a project be denied? They place pressure on (and sometimes manipulate) advisory bodies to approve every project that “comes down the pike”. And as with the last disappointing Cultural Heritage Committee review of 71 Palomar, our advisory body members eventually acquiesce to these pressures.

Neighborhood wellness advocates in SLO are presently being confronted with the following challenges:

1) University expansion negatively impacting residential parking and neighborhood cohesion

2) Proliferation of bars/alcohol outlets and related anti-social behavior within the surrounding neighborhoods

3) Decline in resident owner-occupied housing

4) Expedited environmental impact assessment for urban infill projects within existing neighborhoods (overuse of Senate Bill 226 supporting “categorical infill development exceptions”)

Approx. Date

February 4, 2014
February 17, 2014 October 18, 2014 November 17, 2014 March 6, 2015
May 15, 2015
June 2, 2015: ARC
September 17, 2015
September 23, 2015 May 3, 2016
June 27, 2016
City Ruling/Other Setbacks CC appeal lost: Monterey Place
CC appeal lost: Monterey Hotel CC appeal lost: Mission School CC appeal upheld: 1327 Osos St. St. Fraty’s Party Roof Cave-In Court case lost: Cal Poly Master Plan Update EIR
CC appeal upheld: Mini-dorms Grand Ave. 323-353
CC appeal lost: 1144 Chorro St. Discovery SLO
PC appeal lost: 159 Broad St. CC appeal lost: 48 Buena Vista CHC lost: 71 Palomar
Dana/Monterey Street Neighborhood
San Luis Drive Neighborhood Mission Orchard Neighborhood Old Town Neighborhood Hathway Neighborhood
Alta Vista Neighborhood Alta Vista Neighborhood
Downtown Neighborhood
N. Broad/Serrano Neighborhood Monterey Heights Neighborhood N. Broad Neighborhood